We’ve been settling in to a new (read: 30 years old, rented) house, getting organized. When life has hiccups, new opportunities arise for organization. Some stuff is found; other stuff is rearranged; some stuff is embarrassingly useless, and it gets discarded.
Another kind of organization comes to mind, as well. Although I don’t find church leadership structure to be a particularly crucial area of Christian doctrine, it is worthy of consideration as a practical matter, at the very least.
While some churches appear not to follow patterns, whether real or imagined, most churches take a cue or two from scripture with regard to organization.
The Belmont Church in Nashville, a nondenominational, happenin’ place in the 60s and 70s and still going, once got a bit creative with its organizational hierarchy and had an administrative pastor and an executive pastor (or something close to that). Those titles made some sense to me, logically speaking, and I still have no quarrel with their functionality—in a church I was not a part of, anyway.
Recall this, though: the idea that a pastor is a public sermonizer/preacher/head of church is not a particularly biblical idea. Ironically, the label “pastor” often denotes a CEO of the congregation. It is a word used to label someone other than those leaders who primarily shepherd/feed/care for sheep. Here, it’s not my point that “sermonizing” and preaching are unbiblical (although, see here if you want to pursue that line). Rather, it’s that the “pastor” package—whatever its label—is comparatively human in origin and is not denoted by the biblical instances of the word “pastor.”
In the case of Belmont, the label “pastor” probably didn’t itself carry biblical ideas any more than in other churches, yet that church’s executive pastor, the one with top-level decision-making authority, also happened to be the church’s chief teacher, and he presumably cared for the “flock”—so at least that much was on track. Actually, I suppose that most pastors care and do some shepherding. It’s just that their job descriptions focus in other areas . . . and churches are the poorer for it.
It seems to me that some organizational structures are useful, and others are not so useful, suggesting they need to be discarded.
Next: observations on elders, deacons/deaconesses, ministry leaders . . . and a summary assessment